I have a shocking secret to reveal, one which I’ve never told anyone. Please brace yourselves…. I Claire Eastham am not a huge fan of Christmas. I know, I know; DEMON! EVIL WOMAN! GRINCH!
It’s not something I vocalise, but it’s true.
Ok, before I get stamped as a ‘misery guts’ allow me to plead my case. To put into context, I don’t have a problem with Christmas day. I love being with my family, playing games and eating so much food that I can barely move. (Have you ever noticed that no matter how full you are after Christmas dinner, you can always find room for the following items; cheese and biscuits, After Eights and at least 5 Quality Street chocolates and maybe some nuts. Oh yeah, it’s a form of super strength only to emerge once a year.)
But anyway, yes I am very fond of Christmas day. The build-up and the come down however, are a whole different story. This is a genuine conversation which I overheard in one of the staff kitchens;
Oh God, his family are coming to us. I have to make sure that the food is as nice as last year. His sister is such a good cook, she even decorated the chairs! Then again, she is a full time mum and has time for that sort of thing. I feel sick about it already. There’s so much to do.
Does that sound like fun to you? Does it sound joyful?
Just to really hammer you on the head with it, below are a list of things that stress me out:
- Buying multiple presents. As a perfectionist I strive to buy people presents that they will love. So naturally, it’s crushing when my grandma opens her gift and says; ‘oh thank you! That’s lovely!’ – Only to then toss it to one side and never look at it again. Grandma, I went to Harrods to get you that. I fought through children and elderly Chinese tourists, I wrote the gift tag in silver gel pen!
- The visiting. As an introvert, vast amounts of socialising can be over stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends so much and relish seeing them. (Especially buffet parties, I’m all about buffets and wine during the day.) But I find cramming multiple visits into a few days quite overwhelming! Indeed I always make the effort because I want to see everyone, but it definitely drains me. I wish that I didn’t feel this way and often curse myself, but it never changes. It’s just my personality. Last year when I got back to London I was zombified!
- Work dos work dos work dos… Again, I like socialising with colleagues and I LOVE dancing. But Christmas events are often used as ‘networking’ opportunities and for the first hour people ‘work the room’ aggressively, promoting themselves and
talking shittalking shop. I JUST WANT TO DRINK AND DANCE!
- The pressure to be merry…. All the time.. Omg that kills me. Again, I’m not someone who walks around brooding all the time. But the pressure to be happy for 4 weeks straight is terrifying! Don’t be sad, it’s Christmas soon… ARRRRGGGHHHH!
Now, just to prove that I’m not a miserable cow who wants to suck all the fun out of life. Here are a few thinks that I really like about Christmas:
- The family time. It’s not often that I get to share a meal with my parents, brother and grandparents anymore. So I cherish it.
- The food. Ohhhhhhhh the food!
- The decadence. Christmas is the only time of year when you’re encouraged to drink Champagne for breakfast and not stop until midnight!
- My boyfriend’s face when he visits me on Boxing Day. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I make someone that happy.
- The board games. I’m one hell of a Taboo player!
- Pin pointing the moment when my grandma is officially smashed (my brother and I place bets.) She’s a wonderful drunk!
So there you go, I’m not all that bad.
On a serious note, Christmas can be distressing to people who suffer from mental illness. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had my nervous breakdown last Christmas (December 30th to be exact.) I wish I didn’t remember that date, but I do. Last year Christmas kept me going and put off the inevitable because I had something to external to focus on. But when that was over, all the crazy escaped and I was devoured. To this day, I’ve never felt so frightened in my entire life. The next 21 days were a walking nightmare and at times I wasn’t sure whether I would make it.
But I did make it… and here I am, approaching my first anniversary. Am I afraid? Of course, I have a lot of demons to face. Nonetheless, I am confident that I will sail through.
So if like me you find Christmas taxing, then listen up as I’m going to share my ultimate Crimbo survival plan!
- Be honest with your family about how you feel and your stress levels.
It’s probably a good idea to broach the subject in advance. Now, I don’t mean that you should ring home and announce; Just so you know I hate Christmas and I won’t be getting out of bed for the next 5 days. Instead, just mention that you find the holidays stressful and need some time to relax. You don’t need to make a big deal of it, but be sure to explain that if visits could be spread out where possible, it’d be helpful.
You’ll need to accept that you might have to let people down and that they might not be as understanding as you hoped. Things don’t always go according to plan in life. However, it’s important not to beat yourself up or let others make you feel guilty. Being honest doesn’t mean that you can’t be bothered to see everyone, just that you need to put your health first. Perhaps suggest to those who you don’t manage to fit in that you could meet up in January? (Something to look forward to and help beat the post-Christmas blues.)
- Don’t go overboard with presents.
This year I’m going to buy my grandma a big box of Fox’s biscuits. Oh yes! Why you ask? Well, because they’re her favourite biscuits and I can get a box easily from Sainsbury’s. It’s something I know she’ll like and it’s stress free buying for me. My point is, try not to become obsessed with getting everyone a perfect present. So maybe this year your sister will get one of those default bath sets, or your dad a pair of slippers? They’ll be many more Christmas and it wouldn’t kill you to have a year off. There’s nothing worse than spending every lunch hour rushing around like a lunatic trying to find something outstanding.
Instead, make a list of who you need to buy for and how much you want to spend. Then either do your shopping online or get everything from one shop. It’ll be hard, but it’s better for the stress levels.
- Have love for the work do.
Remember, most people will feel nervous before a work Christmas do, it’s natural. But there are things you can do in advance to reduce anxiety:
– Plan what you’re going to wear in advance and keep it simple/classic. A little black dress or jeans and a nice top are perfect. Simplicity = stress free and can be spiced up with makeup and accessories. You don’t need to stand out from the crowd, instead be comfortable this year.
– Do some CBT in advance to challenge any negative thoughts such as; I’m going to be stood on my own all night or people will think I’m stupid. It’s better to deal with these thoughts in advance rather than drag them with you.
– It sounds cheesy, but think of all the good things about the do e.g. I’m so lucky that I work for a company that treats me to drinks and a nice meal at Christmas or maybe I’ll use tonight to chat to someone new.
- Take some time for yourself and enjoy it
- Christmas can become about everyone else very quickly. So make sure that you do at least one thing for yourself, something that you genuinely enjoy. Whether that’s watching a film with your family, going to the pub with friends or simply curling up on the couch with a book. (Personally, I’ll be sipping mulled wine, stuffing my face with turkey sandwiches and watching A Muppets Christmas Carol!)
So there you have it… My essay of a post has come to an end.
Work is pretty crazy next week, so you might not hear from me… but I shall return! 😉